Pilgrimages, foreign trips:Luring voters the Indian way

The report claimed that 75-85 constituencies, including Mandya, Kalaburgi and Shimoga in Karnataka and Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, witnessed high poll expenditure compared to other constituencies in those states and there were individual candidates who have spent more than Rs 40 crore.

It's not just money that is given to voters during election season to lure them but arranging pilgrimages and even foreign trips to destinations like Bangkok and Singapore has now entered the campaign lexicon if one goes by a report on Lok Sabha poll expenditure.

The 'Poll Expenditure: The 2019 Elections' said that there were constituencies where individual candidates spent more than Rs 40 crore and it was known from the "very outset".

All that offered was to voters was not always in cash as part of it was in "slips". In some cases, money distribution was outsourced to agents.

"Pilgrimage and foreign trips to groups of voters was a new way for canvassing and for community votes (foreign trips include to Bangkok, Singapore)," the report said.

While the report did not mention any specific incident, sources said, in one of the Kerala constituencies, a party through others arranged pilgrimage outside India by offering heavy discounts to ensure that voters from a particular community is absent during polling so that their votes do not go to its opponent.

The report claimed that 75-85 constituencies, including Mandya, Kalaburgi and Shimoga in Karnataka and Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, witnessed high poll expenditure compared to other constituencies in those states and there were individual candidates who have spent more than Rs 40 crore.

The three Karnataka seats mentioned in the report saw high profile contests.

In Mandya, actor Sumalatha, an independent candidate, defeated Nikhil, grandson of former prime minister H D Deve Gowda and son of Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy.

In Kalaburgi, Congress veteran Mallikarjun Karge was defeated by his close confidante Umesh Jadhav, who crossed over to the BJP. In Shimoga, Karnataka BJP president B S Yeddyurappa's son B Y Raghavendra won.

Besides Amethi where Congress chief Rahul Gandhi was defeated by BJP's Smriti Irani, other seats mentioned in the report included Maharashtra's Baramati where NCP chief Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule won and Tamil Nadu's Thoothukudi where DMK's Kanimozhi emerged the winner.

Diamond Harbour, the seat of Abhishek Banerjee— nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, as well as Congress MP Shashi Tharoor's Thiruvananthapuram also witnessed high expenditure.

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